UConn PIRG battles USG on voting changes

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UConn PIRG is proposing changes to the design of student government election ballots. (Natalija Marosz/The Daily Campus)

UConn PIRG is proposing changes to the design of student government election ballots.  

As part of their democracy campaign, UConn PIRG is attempting to change undergraduate student government elections to a ranked-choice system.

“Right now what we have is a categorical ballot where people can just choose one candidate on the ballot,” Noah O’Connor, sixth-semester political science major and coordinator of PIRG’s democracy campaign, said. “The switch that we want to do is to an ordinal ballot where you can rank in preference the most preferred (candidate) to the least preferred (candidate).”

According to PIRG, the change would encourage higher voter and candidate turnout as well as expediting the election process.

Opponents of the change claim the transition wouldn’t cause a significant increase in participation in elections and would lead to overly moderate candidates.

PIRG’s interests are echoed at the state level by Rep. Josh Elliot of Hamden who attempted to implement ranked-choice voting for federal, state and municipal offices in January 2017, a bill that ultimately failed.

To rally support, the group has attempted on-campus outreach events to inform the public, including a panel with UConn political science professor Matthew Singer and Ruben Lebron, a representative of fairvote.org, a ranked-choice voting advocacy group.  

O’Connor said he felt slighted by USG’s disinterest in the campaign’s efforts when he and USG Senator Franklyn Barrueco presented their case at the last USG meeting of the year.

“I wish people would get off their phones and laptops when me and my colleague went up there to give our presentation and actually paid attention to a matter that can impact UConn students,” O’Connor said. “I would hope that a senate that actually cares about its constituents’ opinions would listen.”

O’Connor said that the majority of the group’s work last semester focused on a petition for ranked-choice voting that gathered about 1,000 signatures from active students.

“When it comes to petitions, it doesn’t seem like USG cares,” O’Connor said. “We got as many people to sign for ranked-choice voting as USG was able to grasp for an election.”

O’Connor said PIRG also has its sights on governments larger than just the student body’s.

“One of the goals is to not only have it be implemented into our own student government for multiple reasons but hopefully also show that the next generation of Americans wants a different voting system,” O’Connor said.


Collin Sitz is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at collin.sitz@uconn.edu.

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